A Focused Purpose

McCartney smiles for a memorable and powerful picture while Top Gun almost seems to bow to his master.

Emily McCartney combines love of western lifestyle and photography 

Emily McCartney knew she wanted to be a photographer since she was 16-years-old. As a ranch kid who grew up on horseback, capturing the western lifestyle through the lens of a camera became her life’s purpose.

“Following those passions that God sets on your heart, trusting that path, and focusing on the person he crafted you to be,” Emily said. “That’s what I want my life to look like.”

While most kids want a car or the latest smartphone for their 16th birthday, the creative ranch hand Emily just wanted a refurbished Canon Rebel camera. Emily’s dad, Todd McCartney, said his daughter’s love for western culture and lifestyle is in her blood.  

“It wasn’t the creativity that I saw in Emily in the beginning,” Todd said. “It was the grit and gumption that I really think helped in molding her creativity.” 

Emily said her ranching heritage inspired her entrepreneurial spirit, which led her to start her own photography business focused on capturing the western lifestyle she lives every day. She is a sixth-generation member of the family that has owned and operated the historic R.A. Brown Ranch near Throckmorton, Texas, since 1895. 

I had the possibility to make something of myself if I wanted to.

Emily McCartney

Raised by strong, self-reliant women, including her mother, Marianne Brown McCartney, who could ride horses, rope steers, and pull calves, Emily said she was expected to pull her weight around the ranch.

“It didn’t matter that I was a girl,” Emily said. “I was expected to work like a boy. When dad needed help, I was expected to step up and help.”

Despite her natural creativity and artistic eye, Emily had no formal training in photography. The first time she was around a serious photographer was during a photo shoot at the R.A. Brown Ranch led by the legendary David R. Stoecklein. As a teenage photographer, Emily attended his workshop and soaked up the experience. 

“Stoecklein told me I needed to just go after it,” Emily said. “Even though I was really young, he could see I had an eye for it, and I had the possibility to make something of myself if I wanted to.” 

These inspiring words from a professional photographer only stoked the fire for the young artist. After arriving at Texas Tech University in 2013, Emily found herself at home in the university’s agricultural communications program where she continued to hone her skills and find opportunities for her developing photography business.

“I may have been away from home, but it didn’t feel like it,” Emily said. “I quickly found a mentor and a kindred spirit in Dr. [Lindsay] Kennedy who helped guide me through college and business opportunities during my time at Texas Tech.”

After graduating from Texas Tech in 2017, Emily followed her dream of being a full-time western lifestyle photographer. Her photography work has taken her all over the American West photographing ranches and shooting commercial images for brands like Yeti Coolers, B&W Trailer Hitches, Chama Chairs and Nutrition Plus. She has also been featured in the Western Horseman, the National Ranching Heritage Center, and Western Art Collector. Her Instagram account now boasts more than 25,000 followers and counting.

In December 2019, she realized another career goal when she opened the Roadrunner Gallery in Throckmorton. 

While McCartney wants to move forward with her business and take on bigger projects in the commercial and editorial fields, she is most at home on the back of the ranch’s newest colt, camera in hand, capturing the sunset. 

“Follow those passions that God set on your heart,” Emily said. “I want my art to be remembered. I want my works to be around for another 100 years. That’s what I want in the life God made for me.”

Emily McCartney looks out on a herd of approaching heavy-bred mares with her camera in hand.